How @Xbox hit 80,000 replies on one tweet

Offer fans some fun, watch your brand go viral.

Most of us social professionals are thrilled when a piece of content earns a few hundred comments (or, you know, a few dozen if you’re a B2B SaaS brand with a tiny addressable market and no shot of ever going viral).

Then there’s @Xbox, who just earned 80,000+ replies to a single tweet—a new record for the account. Granted, they’ve got 21.5 million Twitter followers, but most can only dream of that engagement rate.

Let’s break it down, explain why the Starfield patch went hyper viral, and how you can apply the strategy to your brand.

First, a quick disclosure: I started my career at Ayzenberg Group, the advertising agency of record many Microsoft social accounts. I used to contribute to @Xbox every now and again. So yeah, I’m a little biased & think they’re one of the best social media agencies out there, but results are results.

The context: why Xbox tweets about Starfield

When video game studio Bethesda announced the space/action/roleplayer Starfield back in 2018, the hype was immediate. The game is their first new IP in 25 years, following colossal success with Doom, Fallout, and Skyrim. Between the studio’s back catalog & hype for the new game, the folks at Microsoft decided to straight up buy Bethesda for a cool $7.5 billion.

Naturally, that made Starfield promotion a priority for Microsoft from all channels possible, including the humongous Xbox social community.

The tweet: a digital Starfield mission patch

Like all IRL & fictional space organizations, Starfield has an iconic logo & mission patch. It’s already been memorialized in the game’s special edition pre-order.

To celebrate the game’s release, @Xbox posted the below tweet, offering to make custom digital patch profile pics for a few lucky fans… which drew an unprecedented 80,000 replies.

That’s the most replies to a single tweet in @Xbox history. You’re probably wondering how to run an activation like this.

I’ve managed these sorts of stunts before (including at the agency behind this example). There are a few staffing + asset considerations you’ll need to have a successful day.

How it works

It’s a team effort. You’re gonna want a social media manager + graphic designer dedicated to the activation on launch day—maybe even the whole day. Managing replies, creating assets, exporting, spellchecking, spellchecking again, and tweeting back is more than one person can handle.

You’ll want a ready-made Photoshop template for easy text editing. You wanna keep this simple—the more a designer has to do, the longer it takes to make custom assets, and every second counts here. Go for only text changes, not visual changes.

Pump out very few or as many as you can. There’s no magic number or % of replies you’re aiming for here. If you can afford the manpower, create as many custom assets as possible—each could earn you a life-long fan.

Why did this one go viral?

I wanna set expectations here—reply for an asset activations aren’t some viral silver bullet. They’re usually more of an engagement play for core fans, tbh. But Starfield’s patch took off because it’s:

  • A massively hyped product: 6 million day one players can’t be wrong.

  • A legitimately cool image: so much social success comes down to how cool the idea is. This patch isn’t just a good idea, it’s a great idea. It’s cool if you know the game, it’s cool if you don’t know the game.

  • Contextual personalization: gamertags are more important that surnames, especially to @xbox’s followers. The patch recognizes a gamer’s digital identity in the most personal way.

  • Validation from a big name: having Xbox tweet you back is CRAZY for fans! It’s their favorite game console. It’s like getting recognized by a celebrity.

  • Profile pic creation: social avatar activations aren’t as popular now as they were in 2015ish Facebook marketing days, but it’s still the most valuable social real estate a fan owns.

How can your brand run an idea like this?

Staffing + templating are the easy parts. Brainstorming a dynamite asset? That your fans truly want? That’s a whole lot tougher.

Brands that have products or images where a fan could naturally insert their name have a clear advantage here. Think:

  • Pro sports teams jerseys

  • The Share-A-Coke campaign

  • Starbucks orders with slightly wrong names

If you’re willing to make a microsite, you can get very custom with the results. profile picture generators were all the rage in 2015, supporting both entertainment franchises & social causes—I found my Facebook password to dig up examples from Star Wars, The Peanuts Movie, and the 2015 Marriage Equality ruling.

Think about how you can have a lil’ engagement play for your next product launch. Your fans will dig it.